The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could quite possibly the most inconsistent horror franchise out there. The original is quite possibly the greatest horror movie of all time, the sequel is a fun deranged comedy, the third is polished trash, the fourth is borderline unwatchable, the remake is impressively decent while it’s prequel (re-quel?) is fine.
The most recent crack, Lionsgate’s Texas Chainsaw 3D was a laughably stupid romp with quite possibly the dumbest script I have ever experienced and an ending that stretched credulity to tearing point. However, Lionsgate’s second rev of the saw distances itself from it’s predecessor by announcing itself as a prequel. Yep, another one. Friday the 13th boasts not one, but two “final chapters” but two prequels in one franchise has got to be some kind of a record.
Thankfully the producers have enlisted Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury to direct, the two French film makers that debuted with the fantasticly nasty À l’intérieur (Inside). In their hands what could have been another tired horror origin story has enough “oomph” in it to remain entertaining and different from everything that’s come before.
Under suspicion for the murder of a local lawman’s daughter, youngest brother Jed is taken away from the deranged Sawyer family and put into psychiatric care, 10 years later 4 disturbed teens escape from the ward, take a nurse hostage and go on the run. Of the 3 males of the group one is the conflicted Jed who then will go on to become the manical Leatherface. But who?
Actually, it’s pretty fucking obvious who will eventually don the mask made of human skin and grossly misuse gardening tools all in the name of top notch barbeque, but it’s a relief to find that the journey is entertaining enough to make you care.
In a genuine attempt to do something different, Leatherface ironically turns to one of it’s own imitators for inspiration; Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. It plays as a serial killer road movie with more classic Texas Chainsaw style bits topping and tailing the run time. That and it’s an origin movie to boot.
Now the biggest issues I have with origin stories is that the main character doesn’t become the character you want them to be until the end of the movie, and while that is also true here, the film tries to throw some red herrings at you to keep you interested. Plus it’s pretty screwed up too. Very brutal, with plenty of twisted visuals (pavement sandwich! burn scarred breasts! unnecessary-to-the-plot necrophilia! Yay!), this easily matches the viscera of the more out-there installments and gore hounds will be happily sated.
I mean, I was.
The cast is surprisingly capable for this kind of deal, Stephen Dorff, Lilly Taylor and Iron Fist himself Finn Jones head a cast of solid performances which with the direction give the story far more grounding than a film that’s essentially Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 8 probably deserves.
Problems? It may not be out and out Texas Chainsaw-y for some and as a long term Saw fan I would have liked some more stuff involving the other Sawyer brothers (The Cook and The Hitchhiker are essentially background characters here). Plus there’s one too many scenes of characters debating whether or not they should make a run for it (hint: shit or get off the plot, guys. Don’t just sit there mulling it over). But as an 8th instalment in a 43 year old franchise it’s nice to see something different attempted, even if it isn’t exactly different from other horror fare. Different face, same old mask.